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A History of Japanese Video Game Consoles from the 1970s to 2020s

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A History of Japanese Video Game Consoles from the 1970s to 2020s

Figure 1-1. Japanese Home Consoles

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. The 1970s - Origin of Japanese Video Game Consoles
  3. The 1980s - Atari Shock, Success of Nintendo and Sega
  4. The 1990s - Nintendo vs. Sony vs Sega
  5. The 2000s - The downfall of Sega, the Entry of Xbox
  6. The 2010s - The Era of Portability and Enhanced Graphics
  7. The 2020s - Next-Gen Consoles and the Blurring Line Between Reality and Gaming
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix I. Will Sega return to the home video console market?
  10. Appendix II. Will Sony ever make portable consoles like PS Vita 2 and PSP 2 again?
  11. Appendix III. What does Atari do these days?
  12. Appendix IV. Future of Consoles


Introduction


Gaming is a term I am sure many of you are familiar with as, in 2023, it has grown to be a billion-dollar industry that has, in many ways, defeated all other forms of entertainment.  From television to cinema, gaming is now the most successful industry ever created. But alas, the path it took to get to this point was not an easy one as it not only faced the social stigma of being a useless medium but also had to fight the countless attempts from the media and government to restrain it and halt its growth. Through all that, gaming persevered, and in no small part, thanks to the massive success of the home consoles. Because while the arcades of the early 1970s started gaming, it was the introduction of the first home consoles that brought gaming to the masses.

Yes, personal computers also played a role, but they were not made with gaming in mind till the late 2000s. Home consoles, as we know them, first started appearing in the late 1970s and were created by Atari, who monopolized the gaming market, from arcades to personal machines. But as the turn of the decade approached, Atari would see a massive drop in its market share due to blunders such as E.T the game and more causing Atari to fall, and it would have taken the budding gaming industry with it had it not been for the Japanese as they single-handedly saved gaming from being forgotten. As for if you are wondering how they did it and are still continuing to keep the spirit of gaming intact? Keep reading, as this article will answer it all.



The 1970s - Origin of Japanese Video Game Consoles



The 1970s were a time of great upheaval and even more significant change in the tech world, as much of the world’s economy had recovered from the after-effects of World War II, and Japan was the one leading this era. In the 1970s, Japanese companies were innovating and evolving far faster than their rivals, as seen with Taito and, at that time, a small company named Nintendo. Taito is known far and wide as the father of modern arcades, and their legacy and impact on the gaming industry via arcades is long and storied. Nintendo is a name, on the other hand, I am sure you are well aware of, as they have created not one but multiple generation-spanning franchises, one of which is the world’s largest. But it was not always like this; Nintendo, at the start, used to be an unincorporated establishment to produce and distribute Japanese playing cards, or karuta (かるた, from Portuguese carta "card"), most notably hanafuda (花, "flower cards"). But in the 70s, it took a significant risk and created what is now known as the first-ever Japanese gaming console ever. It was known as the Color TV-Game.

  • Color TV-Game

Released from 1977 to 1980, it was Nintendo’s first-ever product that was not a card-based item. It was designed to be plugged directly into your system, and it is safe to say that Nintendo completely copied the early lineup of Atari systems. But with one significant difference, it was designed to play one game, period, which means that you could not change the game or play any other. You only had the game that came baked onto the system. Nintendo did this due to the manufacturing cost of a fully changeable system and the mainstream power of arcades at the time. It was not marketed as a console but as an at-home arcade machine that did not require bulky cabinets or any kind of fancy technology to play. However, games on the system are pretty basic and primarily clones of more popular games, such as space invaders and brick break. But despite its many shortcomings, Nintendo still thought that it was enough of a success that they would greenlight the research and development of another system.

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Figure 2-1. Color TV Game

While in the grand scheme of things, the color tv game is just a footnote in the history of the Japanese consoles, we still cannot forget it as it is the sole reason Nintendo decided to pursue the gaming industry. For that, it should always be remembered as the home console's first and most challenging step.



The 1980s - Atari Shock, Success of Nintendo and Sega



After seeing the success of the color TV, Nintendo would set out to create a home console that could compete with the like of arcades. So, in 1985, Nintendo released NES globally, and with it, they would completely alter the course of gaming for decades to come. But this time, Nintendo was not alone, as Sega saw their arcades’ massive success and wanted to be the first ones in the console market, so they released their Master System in 1985. These two companies would later go on to lay the foundation for the entire console gaming market and are, to this day, still remembered by early gamers fondly. A critical difference between these consoles and the ones in the 70s was the fact that they had a CPU and Rom baked onto the motherboard, such as Ricoh’s 6502 chip system, which Nintendo used by combining a CPU with a sound processing card. While this might seem obvious in the current age of technology, back in the 80s, this was a revolutionary technology, and it also gave Nintendo the power to use the cartridge and cassette system made famous by the Cassette Vision.

  • NES (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Nintendo, indeed, was ahead of its time when it first started the development of the NES and its games. Compared to its rivals at the time, the NES was a masterpiece. It could play multiple games with its cartridge system and pioneered the modern gaming controller with the A, B buttons and the D-pad. And games on the system would go on to create some of the finest franchises known to gamers, such as Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, and Fire Emblem. It also helped that the system was marketed differently for the world and Japan. It was named Famicom in Japan and was meant to be a fun family activity. In the West, it was marketed towards the budding gamer community and for children of all ages.

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Figure 3-1. Nintendo Entertainment System

It was this classic family-friendly image that would define Nintendo to this day and also help them turn over massive profits. This was due to the Western parents thinking it was a safer alternative to films and music. NES would also be the first of many consoles to support anime games as a way of showing the power of Japanese culture. Anime games would also be the bread and butter of the future Nintendo consoles for decades to come, and their impact on gaming development is a topic for another day. One of the most famous anime games on the system is Fire Emblem.

  • Fire Emblem

Released at the tail end of the 80s, Fire Emblem would be Shouzou Kaga’s creation and one of the first games in the SRPG genre. The game’s development was quite tricky as the scope of the game was heavily limited by the hardware of the Famicom, and the story was another matter for contention. As the creator, Kaga wanted the story to deviate from the typical fantasy stereotypes of the time and create a far darker and more realistic narrative. And in the end, he achieved his wish by making the world of Archanea. A land where war and death are all that is known to the population, but following a specific set of incidents, a new hero will rise and claim the titular Fire Emblem and defeat the dark dragons.

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Figure 3-2. Fire Emblem

Much of the game’s mechanics were based around the system’s hardware, meaning that you could not save that often, and with the limited space, if you lost a character in the game, they would be lost forever. This would create the perma-death system, a mainstay of the series to this day. Despite only being released in Japan, the game sales were tremendous, and it was a fan favorite among the early anime gamers of Japan. It is now remembered as the birth of one of the most remarkable strategy game series ever.

  • SEGA Master System

Looking back, it is still a mystery how the Nintendo NES dominated the market when SEGA, a known maker of arcade games, was also in the home console market in the early 1980s. But an acquisition later, SEGA, with a new management team, would set out to complete head-to-head with the NES. For this, they created the Master System, better known as the SEGA Mark III, in Japan. While using a completely different chipset to the NES, the Master System was far more potent in every way than its Nintendo counterpart.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-5-master_system.jpg]
Figure 3-3. SEGA Master System

This could easily be seen with the ports of arcade games, trimmed down for NES, while the Master System ones were either one-to-one recreations or beefed-up original versions. Key among them being the Hokuto no Ken or Black Belt in the west. While the Master systems sales were not comparable to the NES, it gained SEGA a foothold in the market and made SEGA’s brand image that of an underdog with potential in the console market. SEGA later used this brand image when it created its next console, The Genesis.

  • Hokuto no Ken / Black Belt

Based on the famous Fist of the north star anime and manga, the game takes players through sprawling landscapes and high-octane action. First released for arcades and later ported to the master system, the game is a prime example of how and why home consoles were better than arcades in every way imaginable. This was because the home console version had far better graphics and a more robust level system that saw the players go through massive cities and even ruined temples. It also helped that the master system had better controls for the players to use than the arcade version. On the other hand, the story was not a central focal point of the game, as it only retold some of the main events of the anime and manga.

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Figure 3-4. Black Belt

Then there was also the matter of the change in the Western release as the game was not only rebranded but also the majority of the anime aspects other than the cover art and artwork were removed because Sega thought that the Western audience would not like an anime-inspired game and this mentality would remain with Sega for decades to come and result in Sega not only losing fans in its home ground but also losing fans on the international stage. Despite its shortfalls, it is still remembered as one of the best master system games to date and a clear example of how Sega was better than its competitors even at the start.

  • Game Boy

After the release of the NES and its subsequent success Nintendo started the development of a new gaming console but not one that you could play on your television but one that you could play anywhere, the true rival of the arcade. This would later become known as the Game Boy, the spiritual successor of Nintendo's previous game and watch series. Still, unlike them, Nintendo developed the Game Boy to be played anywhere. It also utilized the NES’s proprietary cartridge-based system allowing it to not only have more complex games but also to allow the player the freedom of choice on what game he wanted to play. One of the drawbacks of it was the lack of color and no backlight, but despite that, the Game Boy would go on to define the 80s and 90s, making Nintendo a household name. And the factor that played the most crucial role was Pokémon.

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Figure 3-5. Game Boy
  • Pokémon Red and Blue

The sheer impact of these games can not be stated enough, as with just as a simple back-and-white game for its first release Pokémon took the world by storm and came to define a whole generation of gamers. It also served as the gateway for many gamers to the world of anime games. Featuring 100 plus unique and iconic pocket monsters to catch and train Pokémon would redefine the meaning of mascot power. The story was also quite good for the time as it told themes of comradery and the power of teamwork needed to become the best that ever was. Compared to other games of the time, Pokémon will never be forgotten as it set the foundation for greatness to follow. And if you ever find yourself back playing this masterpiece, don’t forget to catch the Mew under the truck, and how do I know this? Simple, my uncle, who works at Nintendo, told me.

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Figure 3-6. Pokemon


The 1990s - Nintendo vs. Sony vs Sega



Growth is the single word by which the 1990s could be defined. Economic, cultural, and technological growth were hallmarks of this era. It was the decade where we saw the rise of computers and the birth of the internet. We also saw the exponential growth of the gaming industry thanks to the widespread adoption of home consoles. The Japanese home consoles led this charge due to their mass reliance on stories compared to the Western markets. This was due to the hardware golden age the developers of said consoles brought on, while the SNES and SEGA Genesis dominated the early 90s. They had massive drawbacks and cost a lot to manufacture and retain a profit. So when the deal between Sony and Nintendo fell apart, we saw the birth of the most significant hardware generation ever. Leading his era in the late 90s was Sony with their flagship 3D console, the PlayStation, and SEGA with their most optimized SEGA Saturn alongside the Game Gear. Finally, we had Nintendo with the N64 with the first ever analog stick. The handheld market also saw the creation of the game boy color and its advancement.

  • SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)

The SNES, as the name suggests, was just a beefed-up version of the NES. The system’s core hardware was only revamped to play newer games like the new Zelda Link to the Past. But in the grand scheme of things, it was the weakest console sequel ever created. This was because its rivals, the Sega Genesis and Sony’s, at that time hidden project, the PlayStation, had far better hardware and gaming capability than the old-era SNES. But despite everything, it sold exceptionally well in North America and Japan, but much of its success was due to the high quality of games present on the system. One such game was Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Another Story.

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Figure 4-1. Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Another Story

In the 90s, only a handful of series had enough staying power to rival that of Dragon Ball Z. One of these series was Sailor Moon and much in part due to the masterful recreation of the story in the game another story. Compared to other anime games at that time, another story took a bold new approach by creating an original story for the game and one that directly tied back into the main continuity of the manga. It also helped that the game was an RPG at a time when RPGs were the most popular genre. Playing the game in the present day can easily show us how the early stereotypes of anime games were beginning to take form.

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Figure 4-2. Sailor Moon: Another Story
  • Sega Genesis

Genesis was the response of Sega to Nintendo's SNES, as they did their best to not only improve upon the master system but also to make Genesis a viable alternative to the remarkably popular NES. Sega accomplished this by recreating the motherboard and building a proprietary cartridge-based system that would later inspire disk-based approaches. Sega also tried to expand its gaming library by appealing to older audiences compared to Nintendo's child audience. This resulted in some of the best games for Genesis, such as Yu Yu Hakusho Makyo Toitsusen.

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Figure 4-3. Sega Genesis
  • Yu Yu Hakusho Makyo Toitsusen

Toitsusen was a game that emerged in the gold age between the peak of beat-em-ups and the rise of arcade fighters. This resulted in the match having unique fighting mechanics where the fights took place on a linear level, but you could pick and choose any character of your choice. A one-on-one duel with a villain from the series would also cap off each level. The game followed the dark tournament arc of the anime and manga. But due to the massive limitations of the hardware, it could not recreate iconic moments such as the Dark Flames and the spirit awakening. Still, it is a priceless piece of history as it was one of the very few games created before the 3D shift.

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Figure 4-4. Yu Yu Hakusho Makyo Toitsusen
  • PlayStation

Released in 1994, the PlayStation would be the proper start of the home console domination. This was due to the backing of a massive multi-media organization it had in Sony. This resulted in the PlayStation’s cutting-edge technology and massive funding for console-exclusive games, becoming its brand identity for years. Sony also focused on making it the best in the three categories, those being 3D, 2D, and CPU computing. As a result, Sony spent a lot of money on R&D to create the perfect CD Rom system. CD Rom was chosen by Sony as Sony Itself was the leading manufacturer in that space due to the massive storage provided by the CDs. One game that massively benefited from the CD system was Digimon World.

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Figure 4-5. PlayStation
  • Digimon World

Seeing the massive cultural phenomenon that Pokémon was becoming, many games tried to replicate its success, but all failed until one game came along that didn’t replicate the success but tried to carve out its own identity in the sea of Pokémon clones. This game was Digimon World, based loosely on the popular anime. The game follows an original story in which we are teleported to the digital world, and we must raise our Digimon and survive this unforgiving world. While Pokémon held the title for the most magical adventure, Digimon World countered it with a world that was so unique and mysterious that players could not help falling in love with it. In retrospect, it is no surprise that the game still has a dedicated fan base that eagerly awaits new releases in the series, no matter how infrequent they may be.

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Figure 4-6. Digimon World
  • SEGA Saturn

Sega, after the massive success of Genesis, was already working on the next big thing that could revolutionize the gaming industry. And it came in the form of Saturn, the most powerful 2D gaming console at that time, as it could accurately replicate arcades and use 3D polygons to give 2D games a new feel. This was due to most of its development team being a part of the team that made the System 32 arcade.  It also featured some of the best hardware components at that time, such as two SH2 CPUs, a Motorola MC68000 sub-CPU for sound, a VDP1 video processor for sprite and polygon operations, a VDP2 video processor for scrolling, and an SH1 for CD-ROM control. While this gave Saturn tremendous processing power, it was also the flaw that would lead to Sega’s downfall. Due to the price of the hardware, Sega had to aggressively price the system, which led to massive losses.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-15-saturn.jpg]
Figure 4-7. Sega Saturn
  • Grandia

Developed by Game Arts, Grandia perfectly showcases how strong Saturn was compared to its rivals. Grandia is a 2D game set in a 3D world, meaning that the in-game sprites used are 2D while rendered onto a 3D background. This gives the game a unique feel and helps the combat system be seen as more interactive than its contemporaries. Narrative-wise, the game is a perfect blend of child-like innocence and the dark reality of war and conquest. As we take control of Justin, a boy who yearns for adventure in a world where everything has been discovered, humanity now stands still due to the large stone wall blocking its progress. Justin is just a child at the start of the game, but as the story picks up steam, we see him go through tremendous character growth as he loses it all and only has his dream to adventure to anchor himself in this cold and dark world. It is a masterfully crafted narrative and one that is beautifully supported by the game’s robust combat system. So, if you are looking for an RPG from the golden era, look no further than Grandia.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-16-grandia.jpg]
Figure 4-8. Grandia
  • Game Boy Color

While Nintendo was losing massively in the home console market due to the better engineering of Sony and Sega, there was one market where Nintendo was winning: the handheld consoles. And after the previous success of Game Boy, they released what many still regard as the most outstanding handheld system ever, the Game Boy Color. But much of this success was due to the quality of games on the system, such as Dragon Quest III.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-17-game_boy_color.jpg]
Figure 4-9. Game Boy Color
  • Dragon Quest III

It is no secret that the RPG genre was slowly stagnating and dying. Even though the 90s saw the release of classics such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy, it was easy to see the future trajectory. This is why Dragon Quest III changed platforms and came to the handheld console market. This was done so players could play the lengthy RPGs anywhere, anytime. Created primarily for the Game Boy, Dragon Quest III is a game that forsakes the tropes of those that came before in favor of an ever-evolving story and a narrative that blurs the lines between good and evil. Combat has been revamped as battles are more dynamic, and the rewards are even better. Dragon Quest III, in many ways, is the salvation RPGs were looking for.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-18-dragon_quest_iii.jpg]
Figure 4-10. Dragon Quest III
  • Nintendo 64

While most companies had moved on from the cartridge-based systems, Nintendo was still using it as they had spent much money on making it the best they could and did not want to admit that they had banked on the wrong tech for the future. But despite all the flaws, the system sold quite well, and again as it is with Nintendo, they sold well due to the quality of games they offered. Because even though Sony and Sega had better hardware, games like Mario 64 and Legen of Zelda Ocarina of Time would define this gaming period. Alongside them, one other game would be a shining example of how hardware limitations can be used to create a game true to its source material, and this game was Evangelion 64.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-19-n64.jpg]
Figure 4-11. N64
  • Evangelion 64

Few games can claim to be accurate adaptations of their source material, and Evangelion 64 is not one of them. Now you might find that statement weird, but let me explain. Evangelion is an anime that has gone down in infamy as it has some of the most obscure storytelling known to mankind. But it also has some of the best-set pieces ever, and the game Evangelion 64 manages to recreate those scenes perfectly, but regarding the story, it tries to add context to points of the story that would be better without it. It is a perfect example of the power of games as a medium for interpretations. So if you are ever watching Evangelion and think what could have been, Evangelion 64 is the game for you.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-20-evangelion_64.jpg]
Figure 4-12. Evangelion 64


The 2000s - The downfall of Sega, the Entry of Xbox



The 2000s would be the decade where we saw gaming enter the mainstream media, and alongside, we saw the downfall of the once mighty Sega and the entry of Microsoft in the console market with the Xbox.

  • PlayStation 2

At the dawn of the 21st century, Sony was ready to unveil the successor of the PlayStation, and this time they were not only targeting the gaming market but also the DVD market. Released in 2000, the PlayStation 2 is a system that single-handedly cemented home consoles as the powerhouse of the gaming industry. It not only featured tech leagues ahead of its competitors, but it also had one of the most robust libraries of games ever to be released, from Final Fantasy 10 to all-time classic Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-21-ps2.jpg]
Figure 5-1. PlayStation 2
  • Naruto: Ultimate Ninja

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja crystallized the fervor of the beloved anime series into an interactive spectacle. Players traversed the Hidden Leaf Village, embracing the heart, soul, and agility of ninjas. With dynamic visuals, the game accurately portrayed the fervent rivalries and friendships of Naruto's world. Each bout echoed the profound journey of these ninjas, embodying the series' themes of perseverance, camaraderie, and destiny.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-22-naruto_u..._ninja.jpg]
Figure 5-2. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja
  • GameCube

Amidst the fierce console wars, Nintendo knew that it did not have the same power it once did with the NES, and the only reason it was selling systems was due to the masterpieces their studios were making. So Nintendo did what it thought was the best option. They created a system that was not the strongest or the most innovative, but it was the easiest to develop games for. This resulted in many iconic games being made, such as Legend of Zelda Wind Waker. But aside from first-party games, they also allowed for the development of licensed games such as One Piece: Grand Battle! Rush.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-23-gamecube.jpg]
Figure 5-3. GameCube
  • One Piece: Grand Battle! Rush

The vast world of "One Piece" was masterfully condensed into "Grand Battle! Rush." This game embodied the spirit of adventure that fans craved, transporting them to a universe filled with grandiose dreams and pirate legends. It celebrated the camaraderie of the Straw Hat crew, their mighty foes, and the boundless oceans they sailed, capturing the essence of the beloved manga and anime.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-24-grand_battle_rush.jpg]
Figure 5-4. Grand Battle! Rush
  • Dreamcast

For many gamers, the Dreamcast holds a special place in our hearts as it was the last home console Sega made, and it was undoubtedly the reason Sega lost its place amongst the best. One of the key reasons was the cost of the hardware and the sheer features it offered. The Dreamcast had the most advanced components, and it even came with an option to connect to the internet. But alas, it was not meant to be, but hope was not lost as the Dreamcast had some of the most fun games ever created, including Sakura Wars 3.

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Figure 5-5. Dreamcast
  • Sakura Wars 3: Is Paris Burning?

Sakura Wars 3 is a symphony of love, war, and steampunk aesthetics set in a romanticized Paris. Blending tactical combat with relationship-building, this game invited players into an evocative narrative filled with drama, laughter, and intrigue. Its alternative-history setting was brought to life with stunning art, and the game remains a prime example of how games can be as rich and emotionally resonant as any other form of media.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-26-sakura_wars_3.jpg]
Figure 5-6. Sakura Wars 3
  • Game Boy Advance

The Game Boy Advance was the final nail in the coffin of Nintendo’s domination of the handheld market. It wasn’t just an update on the last Game Boy. No, it was redesigned from the ground up to support more complex games and has some of the best handheld graphics on the market. It also showed that instead of focusing on better hardware, Nintendo focused on experiences, which required their devices to have the most accessible interface and developing backend. A prime example of this is Fullmetal Alchemist: Stray Rondo.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-27-game_boy_advance.jpg]
Figure 5-7. Game Boy Advance
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Stray Rondo

Dive into the complex world of alchemy with Fullmetal Alchemist: Stray Rondo. This game encapsulated the quest of the Elric brothers, intertwining magic, science, and morality. Every decision and every battle resonated with the themes of sacrifice and redemption that underpin the original narrative. As players sought the elusive Philosopher's Stone, they confronted profound moral dilemmas mirroring the series’ heart.

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Figure 5-8. Fullmetal Alchemist: Stray Rondo
  • Nintendo DS

AS THE HATERS SAID, Nintendo DS was a gimmick handheld, and well, they were right; it is a gimmick handheld, but one that outsold all others that came before it. This groundbreaking device offered visual depth and tactile interaction via its touch screen. Enriching narratives and innovative mechanics were its iconic selling points. They also helped in making gaming more immersive. With its clamshell design and intuitive stylus, the DS championed a fresh approach to interactive entertainment, reshaping the handheld landscape.

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Figure 5-9. Nintendo DS
  • Bleach: Dark Souls

Amidst the ethereal realms of Bleach, Dark Souls stood out as a testament to the series' captivating lore. As players harnessed the raw power of the Shinigami, they delved into a world of spirits, honor, and intense battles. Fluid combat, deep strategy, and a narrative intertwined with the anime made this game a beacon for fans and newcomers alike, celebrating the saga's profound mythos.

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Figure 5-10. Bleach: Dark Souls
  • PlayStation Portable

Cherished by many and hated by only a few, the PSP would show the world that the handheld market was not owned only by Nintendo. But it was undoubtedly dominated by them, and this was because of a straightforward reason, games. The PSP had good games such as Bleach Heat of Soul, but they were not comparable to the AAA games Nintendo was making for the DS and later 3DS. But despite all that, the PSP is remembered fondly to this day because it tried where no other dared.

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Figure 5-11. PSP
  • Bleach: Heat the Soul

Diving deeper into the spectral world of "Bleach," "Heat the Soul" explored the fierce confrontations and rich lore of the series. Players mastered the abilities of their favorite characters, confronting formidable foes in intense, fast-paced combat. With its impeccable adaptation of the anime's aesthetics and its faithful recreation of its iconic battles, the game was a love letter to fans.

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Figure 5-12. Bleach: Heat the Soul
  • PlayStation 3

It would not be wrong to say that Sony dominated the previous two generations of consoles, and with the best hardware ever, they were ready to make it into a hat trick, but alas, Microsoft had other plans. Sony’s new flagship console was not competing against the likes of the Wii or the GameCube; no, it was up against the Xbox 360, and everyone knew the outcome of that match-up. But despite losing that generation’s console war, the PS3 sold large amounts due to its ability to play Blue-Ray disks. These Blue Ray disks also extended the console's life to such a length that we got Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom.

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Figure 5-13. PlayStation 3
  • Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom

Humanity's desperate stand against the titanic menace found a digital haven in Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom. Mirroring the raw emotion and intensity of the anime, this game allowed players to soar through the skies, employing omnidirectional mobility gear against the looming Titans. With every swing, leap, and strike, it captured the desperation, hope, and fear of the series, immersing players in the tragic beauty of a walled world.

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Figure 5-14. Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom
  • Wii

Seeing that another multi-media giant had come into the ring of home consoles, Nintendo knew that it could not compete with them in terms of hardware, and soon they would also lose in the games department. So, Nintendo did something unthinkable they reinvented the wheel with the creation of the Wii. A system that relied on motion controls, and with that, they set themselves apart from the standard Xbox and PS3. While some even made fun of them, knowing quite well that Nintendo could pull this off and even turn a profit. They did this by making the Wii the most-sold console of its time, and they even got Sony and Xbox trying to copy their unique controller style but to no avail.

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Figure 5-15. Wii
  • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3

In the vast cosmos of Dragon Ball Z games, Budokai Tenkaichi 3 ascended as a zenith of combat. Players summoned the raw might of Saiyans, the finesse of Namekians, and the terror of androids. Its expansive roster brought together heroes and villains from diverse sagas, allowing epic duels under myriad backdrops. With fluid combat mechanics and cinematic special moves, it became a staple, echoing the anime's grandeur and passion.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-36-budokai_tenkaichi_3.jpg]
Figure 5-16. Budokai Tenkaichi 3


The 2010s - The Era of Portability and Enhanced Graphics

  • PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4 was Sony's fourth home console, showcasing a giant leap forward in processing power, graphics, and network capabilities. Featuring seamless online connectivity, a revamped DualShock controller, and a user-friendly interface, it represented the modern vision of an immersive and social gaming experience. It also helped that the PS4 was better than its rival, the Xbox One, in every imaginable way. It was in every way a console that dominated.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-37-ps4.jpg]
Figure 6-1. PlayStation 4
  • Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization

Within the digital realms of Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization, players experience the exhilarating danger of a virtual world. Bridging the gap between reality and fantasy, the game invited fans to explore vast landscapes, engage in intricate combat, and unravel the mysteries of the AI-driven universe. As a tribute to the original narrative, it delivered an immersive RPG experience, echoing the dual thrill and peril of virtual existence.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-38-sword_ar...zation.jpg]
Figure 6-2. Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization
  • Wii U

Nintendo's Wii U, the successor to the Wii, was a massive failure. There is no other way to describe it. Despite having some great games, such as Tokyo Mirage Sessions FE, it had the lowest home console sales and was beaten in every way by the PS4 and the Xbox One. With its cost of production sky-high and sales not meeting demands, Nintendo discounted the system and started working on a replacement for it. The replacement would combine the handheld and home consoles in such a way that gaming would never be the same again.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-39-wii_u.jpg]
Figure 6-3. WII U
  • Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE

Fusing the allure of J-Pop culture with elements of the renowned "Fire Emblem" and "Shin Megami Tensei" franchises, Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE was a vibrant RPG spectacle on the Wii U. Its colorful style, engaging battle mechanics, and intriguing storyline provided a unique twist on traditional RPG tropes. The game embodies contemporary Japanese pop culture, wrapped in a love letter to the genre.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-40-tokyo_mi...ons_fe.jpg]
Figure 6-4. Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE
  • Nintendo Switch

Marking a revolution in the console landscape, Nintendo's Switch unveiled the seamless integration of home and handheld gaming. With its detachable Joy-Con controllers and a portable dock, it catered to many diverse playstyles while keeping the core identity of Nintendo intact. The switch showed the world that Nintendo was back and that even after a massive failure like the Wii U, they still had it in them to create generation-defining experiences. The games on the system were also the most enjoyable ones on the market, such as My Hero One’s Justice.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-41-switch.jpg]
Figure 6-5. Nintendo Switch
  • My Hero One's Justice

A vibrant adaptation of the popular anime, My Hero One's Justice on the Switch, captured the heroics and tensions of "My Hero Academia." It allowed players to step into the shoes of their favorite heroes and villains, demonstrating their quirks in visually stunning battles. It skillfully encapsulated the anime's spirit, balancing heroism and friendship with high-stakes combat.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-42-my_hero_...ustice.jpg]
Figure 6-6. MHA Ones Justice
  • Nintendo 3DS

The 3DS was just like its predecessor, a gimmick handheld, but unlike the DS, the thing that made it unique was forgotten. Instead, Nintendo focused on ensuring that each game on the system was optimized and provided players with endless fun, such as Pokémon X, Animal Crossing, and Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-43-nintendo_3ds.jpg]
Figure 6-7. Nintendo 3DS
  • Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains

Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains brought the post-apocalyptic struggle against Titans to the 3DS. The game provided a compact rendition of the anime's narrative, melding action and strategy as players defended their walls from the colossal threat. Despite the handheld's limitations, it delivered the series' trademark intensity, resonating with fans eager to experience the battle for humanity firsthand.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-44-attack_o...chains.jpg]
Figure 6-8. Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains
  • PlayStation Vita

Sony's PlayStation Vita, a testament to the potential of high-end handheld gaming, boasted console-quality graphics on a vibrant OLED screen. With its dual analog sticks and touch capabilities, it provided a nuanced control scheme. Yet despite all that, the Vita was a failure in the eyes of Sony as it could not outsell the 3DS or even the DS. Much of this was due to the price point, as all the fancy hardware required Sony to price it relatively high to turn a profit. It could not even sell more when Sony ported over an advanced version of Atlas’s masterpiece Persona 4 Golden.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-45-psvita.jpg]
Figure 6-9. PS Vita
  • Persona 4 Golden

As a defining game of the Vita, Persona 4 Golden combined high school life simulation with dungeon-crawling RPG elements. Its blend of relatable characters, a compelling murder mystery, and the surreal world of the TV realm resulted in a rich, unforgettable narrative. The game's handling of profound themes amidst vibrant visuals and a memorable score solidified its status as a genre classic.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-46-persona_4_golden.jpg]
Figure 6-10. Persona 4 Golden


The 2020s - Next-Gen Consoles and the Blurring Line Between Reality and Gaming



As we enter the new decade, the gaming market shifts from console exclusives to multi-platform games, and companies are slowly losing interest in home consoles. But despite all that, we can easily see that the mainstay of the market, Sony, Xbox, and Nintendo have no intention of leaving the market. But console exclusivity is starting to die off, as we see with the release of some of Sony’s best sellers on the PC. But we are also seeing a massive shift in how Xbox handles games and the console in general as it is trying to penetrate markets that have long been Sony’s domain, but will they be able to accomplish it is a question for another time.

  • PlayStation 5

Sony has genuinely accomplished the unthinkable by not only building a system that can play games on a level comparable to gaming PCs but also making it at a fraction of what PCs would cost. We need to acknowledge that, unlike gaming PCs, consoles are the easiest way for the majority of the population to play games and interact with their friends in online games. One of the best games on the PS5 in that regard is Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-47-ps5.jpg]
Figure 7-1. PlayStation 5
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles

Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles promises to encapsulate the harrowing journey of Tanjiro and his allies. The game aims to faithfully recreate the acclaimed series’ visceral combat and captivating storytelling. By leveraging the PS5's capabilities, it aspires to deliver an immersive journey through Taisho-era Japan, resonating with fans and newcomers alike.

[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-48-demon_sl...nicles.jpg]
Figure 7-2. Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles


Conclusion



Hence this long and detailed analysis of the Japanese home consoles comes to an end and the road they took from industry pioneers to main stays in pop culture. And one can’t help but wonder about their effects on the market, from Nintendo saving gaming after Atari failed and how Sony brought consoles to the mainstream media. Despite all that, one thing is for sure Japanese home consoles are not going to stop any time soon, as there are already rumors of Nintendo’s new consoles, Sony’s final push in the handheld market, and the secretive deal between Sega and Xbox, the future has never seemed so bright before.



Appendix I. Will Sega return to the home video console market?


[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-49-segata_sanshiro.jpg]
Figure. Segata Sanshiro, the Mascot of Sega Saturn

After the failure of Saturn, Sega finally gave up on the home console market and became a third-party developer. But sadly, it saw even more loss after that as many of its original IPs had to be licensed off since they could not maintain the quality of games. Most apparent in titles such as Sonic The Hedgehog 6. But many still hold out hope that Sega will one day make a triumphant return; sadly, these dreams will stay that, dreams. Sega has shown zero interest in home consoles, as according to their executive, Sega will focus on the quality of their games going forward to ensure fans are kept happy. Sega has also seen the limelight recently due to the rumor of Microsoft buying it to enter the gaming market in Japan. This might be closer to the truth than we realize, as Microsoft recently acquired Bethesda and Activation, the biggest acquisition in tech history. And if Microsoft acquires Sega, we might see Sega-powered consoles once more but under the Xbox brand.



Appendix II. Will Sony ever make portable consoles like PS Vita 2 and PSP 2 again?


[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-50-project_q.jpg]
Figure. Project Q

Yes, they will, as Sony has recently announced the development of Project Q. A gaming handheld set to rival the Steam Deck and Switch, but it has one major flaw. It will not be a standalone device; you will need a PlayStation 5 to use it fully. While Sony fanboys are singing its praises, we must step back and analyze to see if Sony is even trying. Because the requirement to own a PS5 is pretty steep due to the global shortage of the system and the ludicrously high resell price. But suppose Sony is dead set on releasing Project Q as a companion device. In that case, it needs to be priced accordingly because the market for handheld consoles has changed quite a lot, with many new players entering the ring, such as ASUS with its new line of handheld devices. But who knows, maybe Sony will surprise us all and market Project Q in such a way that it will outsell all the rest; we will have to wait and see what happens.



Appendix III. What does Atari do these days?


[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-51-atari_yu...ective.jpg]
Figure. Atari's Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective

After its downfall, the gaming world has heard seldom about what Atari has been up to; this is because it has stopped making games anymore, or I should say new games. The last relevant game Atari made was "Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective" for the Game Boy Advance—a platform created by Nintendo, a company that Atari thought could never compete with them. Atari has recently become more active by porting its older games to newer platforms to try and see if they could sell their games with the power of nostalgia alone. Surprisingly they are also hosting and organizing significant conventions, such as the Queen City Kamikaze Anime & Video Game Convention and Puchicon. But it seems that Atari has genuinely given up on ever returning to the gaming market, and maybe that is for the best, as many have still not forgotten the failure that was E.T.



Appendix IV. Future of Consoles


[Image: japanese_video_game_consoles-52-switch_2_concept.jpg]
Figure. Switch 2 Concept Art

Speculation on what will come next has been something that console fans have partaken in with fervor since the late 90s. But unlike those times, much has changed, now we simply do not know what a company will do next; PlayStation is rumored to be already working on an upgraded version of the PS5, and alongside Project Q, it seems that Sony is the only one that is going to be upholding the status quo. Xbox is now focusing more on gaining development studios to produce more exclusive games, and with their Game Pass, they might be the first to change to purely cloud-based gaming. As for Nintendo, we simply don’t know; taking a simple look at the past will reveal that Nintendo does not play by the rules as it has always broken the status quo, whether it is the motion controls with the Wii or the merger of handheld and home console with the switch. But rumors of a fabled Switch 2 are in the works, which is quite apparent since the original Switch has been showing its age. We don’t know if they will follow the switch with an upgraded version or create something new entirely. Only time will tell, but I can assure you that the coming era will be one for the history books.



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